10/12/2004 12:00AM

France debates big changes


The administrative council of France-Galop, French racing's ruling body, met on Tuesday in Boulogne, near Paris, to debate the changes proposed by its president, Edouard de Rothschild, to decrease the distances of the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) and other major races on the French calendar.

Rothschild has proposed that the French Derby be reduced in distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 5/16 miles, the same distance as the French Oaks. Some believe the French Derby, run in June, is too long a race for 3-year-olds so early in the year. He also desires to reduce the distance of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud for 3-year-olds and up from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles and increase the distance of the Grand Prix de Paris for 3-year-olds from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles - plus move that race from late June at Longchamp to early July at Saint-Cloud.

Rothschild has also suggested that the 1 1/8-mile, Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan for older horses be reduced to a mile.

France-Galop will present the findings of the meeting to the European Pattern Race Committee on Oct. 19. Any decision concerning changes in conditions or dates of group races must be approved that committee.